Spring term 2012
In this issue: Personal freedoms
This month we are focusing on individual freedoms. How much freedom should each of us have? In what areas of our lives? And when is it acceptable to restrict individual freedom for the safety of society as a whole?
The Protection of Freedoms bill, currently under debate in the House of Lords, covers a range of issues, from storage of DNA data to the regulation of CCTV cameras and the length of time a suspected criminal can be detained without trial. Explore these issues with your students using the videos, bill summary and downloadable resources below.
In one minute: The Protection of Freedoms bill
We gave two Members of the House of Lords one minute to answer the question: 'How much should the state restrict personal freedom to protect society as a whole?' and other questions about the bill.
Explore these issues in the classroom using the downloadable classroom resource.
The Protection of Freedoms bill: what's included?
- Access to DNA data - Police will no longer be allowed to retain DNA data taken from people who are arrested for a criminal offence without being charged or convicted. There will be some exceptions to this rule. For example, DNA data from a person aged 18 or over arrested for (but not convicted of) certain serious violent and sexual offences could be retained by police for three years, with the possibility of a further two year extension. (At the moment, the police can retain DNA data taken from an arrested person indefinitely even where he is not subsequently charged with or convicted of an offence).
- Biometric data in schools - Schools will not be able to use students’ biometric data (such as fingerprints) without the written consent of parents. Even with parental consent, the data must not be processed if the student objects.
- Detention without charge of terrorist suspects - Police will no longer be able to hold terror suspects for more than 14 days, before charging them with an offence. Previously, the police had been able to hold suspects for up to 28 days without charge in some circumstances.
- Stops and searches to prevent acts of terrorism - Police have several stop and search powers and most require 'reasonable suspicion' about the individual being searched. However, the power under the Terrorism Act 2000 does not. Under the new rules, the police would still be allowed to stop and search people with no suspicion, but in more limited circumstances and with tighter controls. The senior officer could only authorise the searches for an area if he reasonably suspected that an act of terrorism would take place and reasonably considered that the authorisation was necessary to prevent that act.
- Regulating CCTV - Ministers must create a code of practice to regulate the millions of CCTV cameras in the UK, setting out how they can be used and how the images can be processed. (At the moment, there is no code of practice.)
What are the issues?
- Security - Some personal freedoms are restricted to protect the freedom and safety of others. Can your students think of examples?
- Personal freedom - European conventions protect an individual's right to privacy in many areas of their lives. Can your students think of examples where the right to personal freedom and the need for security may come into conflict? What is the best way of balancing these two principles?
- Fairness - Is everyone treated equally? Are some people's liberties restricted more than others?
- Political context - Does the balance between freedom and security change over time? Can your students think of events in recent years that may have affected this balance?
The downloadable classroom resource explores some of these issues in more detail.
Who am I?
This month's guest, Lawrence Ward, Deputy Serjeant at Arms, provides security and visitor access to Parliament. Here he talks about his work in this historic, 600-year-old role. He also discusses his favourite parts of the job and explains how he progressed from junior postman to a position where he meets world leaders like Barack Obama.
What personal information do your students think should be private and how much do authorities like the police and government need to know? Explore the limits of our personal freedom using these discussion cards, including suggestions for classroom activities about rights and freedoms.
Download the resource
News round-up: Top stories this month
Lessons from the August riots - report published
What caused the riots, what role did social media play, and was the police response adequate? The Commons Home Affairs Select Committee has published a report on these issues following the summer disturbances in Tottenham and around the country.
Giving aid to fragile states - new report
The government is right to increase aid to fragile states and those affected by conflict, such as Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, but this should depend on efforts to improve accountability, according to a House of Commons report.
Government plans to go ahead with High Speed 2
The Transport Secretary, Justine Greening, announced to the House of Commons on 10 January that the government's plans for a high speed rail link from London to Birmingham will go ahead.